As I sit here writing my Christmas wish list, I can’t help but fixate on one simple word;
What do I WANT for Christmas?
How is it that this four letter word can shine a light so brightly on my privilege and remind me that getting to ask this very question is a luxury that many cannot afford to ask themselves this holiday season?
With every passing Black Friday or Cyber Monday, it feels like we are drowning in the commercialism of Christmas and losing touch with the original meaning of the season. We have to remember that at the heart of it, Christmas is about spending time with loved ones and giving to those less fortunate than ourselves. It is a time for giving, rather than receiving.
So, how can you bring back the original spirit of the holiday season? Here are some ways to get you started.
Find a cause (or causes) you care about
If you want to give back, but don’t know where to start, why not check out the Volunteer Canada website to find your local volunteer centre. Once you find a centre close to you, you can check out their website for volunteer opportunities, filtering for causes which are most important to you.
Ways to give back that don’t involve money
Now while not everyone can donate money, there are plenty of different ways you can give back without opening your pocket book.
⦁ Volunteer your time
Many opportunities only require one very important thing – your time. There are many different types of volunteer activities ranging from all day activities to just a couple of hours. You can choose if you want to volunteer on a continuous basis or just a one-time event.
⦁ Give items
If you are unable to donate your time, why not donate things you have? There are many charities which take gently used clothing and household items. Every season our household goes through the process of purging our drawers and closets to donate items which either no longer fit or haven’t been worn in a long time. All the items are donated to Diabetes Canada. To make it even easier for people to do this, they have people who will come and pick up the items from your home. It’s as easy as that!
What are some causes I care about?
Growing up my mother would always tell me “Whatever you do in life, you have to remember to always give of yourself to others”. I believe it was this lesson that propelled me into volunteering my time and giving to causes which are near and dear to my heart.
Here are two organizations which are important to me:
In July of 1976, Interval House opened its doors and became the first shelter for women in the Ottawa community. In their first 40 years, they have served more than 3200 women and 4000 dependents and countless more through their crisis line and Transitional & Housing Support Program.
As a young child, my family was a recipient of the services of Interval House. Fleeing an abusive situation, my mother moved my brother and me into the program and we stayed in their facilities until she was able to get back on her feet. I could not imagine how different my life would be if it were not for the amazing people who were able to support my mom in this difficult time.
Since Christmas time can be a particularly stressful time for many families, having places that they can go to escape violence can make all the difference.
Ways you can give back to Interval House:
⦁ Make a donation: This can be done through monetary gifts, gift cards to various businesses (like Walmart, etc.), gently used clothing and non-used toiletries.
⦁ Volunteer: You can volunteer your time to support with activities for the clients of the center or even assist around the facility.
Since 1997, Dress for Success has been empowering women to achieve economic independence by providing professional attire, development tools to help them thrive in work and life and a network of support and guidance. They are found in more than 150 cities in 28 countries and have helped nearly one million women.
This past year my work participated in a Community Investment day and I lead one of the events. My team assisted the volunteers at Dress for Success by sorting through hundreds of items which were donated.
The wonderful women at the center explained the various ways that the Ottawa branch assisted women to prepare for interviews. This included providing them with a few outfits for both during the interview itself and after they were able to acquire the position. The center was filled with beautiful pieces of clothing, jewelry, purses and handbags, professional shoes and anything a woman might need to give her that extra confidence to ace the interview.
Ways you can give back to Dress for Success:
⦁ Donate apparel and accessories: This can be done by either dropping off your own gently used work appropriate clothing/accessories or by organizing a donation drive (plan a campaign at your company, school, place of worship or association).
⦁ Make a monetary donation: Donating money will assist with the various programs that Dress for Success leads – learning and developing new skills, making connections, improving resumes and building confidence.
⦁ Volunteer: Get a group together to volunteer for a day (like my work was able to do – it’s a great way to team build) or check with your local affiliate for opportunities such as:
- Boutique Volunteer – assisting women with getting their interview attire
- Career Center Specialist – boosting women’s confidence through mock interviewing and resume tips
- Mentor – develop a long-term relationship with a client to help her reach her goals
- Event Speaker – share your knowledge and inspire others
- Consulting – share your special skills to benefit your local affiliate
- Administrative – share your office skills with your local affiliate